Local director Hamish Bennett has captured a slice of rural Kaipara life with his latest movie, Bellbird

Farming tale with a big heart

by Andy Bryenton

Northland film director Hamish Bennett has released a new motion picture, which tells a story of rural life in our part of the nation.

Bellbird is set in the hinterland of Maungakaramea, over the hills from Paparoa, and addresses the sometimes isolated, emotional and family-centred world of dairying.

Bennett created Bellbird, which has already featured at the Sydney Film Festival and the New Zealand International Film Festival, as an expansion of his award-winning short film Ross and Beth. He cast veteran Kiwi screen actor Marshall Napier, who played the villain in the Billy T James hit Came a Hot Friday, as the focus of this movie — a farmer who finds it hard to cope with the death of his wife. His son, played by Cohen Holloway, tries to bridge the gap of his taciturn silence along with a group of mates in their close-knit rural community.

Producer Orlando Stewart says that Bellbird is resonant with Northland farm life in a way few other cinematic stories have been before; its director grew up here, and it’s filmed entirely on location. Due to this, he’s preceding the nationwide release date for the film with a showing in Dargaville’s ANZAC Theatre on November 2.

It’s a way of acknowledging the input of this part of the country as an ‘unspoken character’ in the film, and the central Dargaville cinema is the closest in the country to where filming took place. A teaser trailer, which shows a little of the movie’s rural backdrop, including a glimpse of the Northern Farming Lifestyles newspaper, is available at nzonscreen.com/title/bellbird-2019.